How To Learn GRE Vocabulary Quickly and Effectively
Posted on
Mar 2023

How To Learn GRE Vocabulary Quickly and Effectively

By now you know that GRE preparation, for almost everyone, involves studying vocabulary words. Half of the questions on the GRE verbal reasoning sections are vocabulary-based. You will have to select from an answer choice set of vocabulary words to appropriately fill in the blank/blanks in a sentence. It’s hard to get these questions right without knowing the vocabulary. Unless you are an edacious reader with a prodigious vocabulary, you’ll most likely need to learn a few hundred words.

GRE Vocabulary Preparation Lists

How can you complete such a rebarbative task efficiently? Well, there are myriad GRE vocabulary lists out there for you to study, but I recommend making your own flashcards.

As you practice reading comprehension, both from official GRE practice materials and from other good sources like peer-review journals and college textbooks in the sciences and humanities, make a flashcard for every word you encounter and don’t know.

Don’t worry about sciency words that would only ever be used in one context, like phototransduction. You want nouns, adjectives, and verbs that have broad applicability. Even when you come across an unknown word in the course of working or reading for pleasure, jot it down somewhere (digitally or physically) and make a flashcard later.

Once you get into this habit, you’ll be amazed how often you encounter unknown words in everyday life. Most of us just filter these words out or circumvent them by using context clues to get the gist of what was said. A useful skill – but in this case a deleterious one.

Make a Flashcard for Each Unknown Word

And of course, make a flashcard for every unknown word you encounter in any vocabulary-based GRE practice question.

The very act of making these flashcards will reinforce your memory of the words’ definitions, but as you keep shuffling your deck and studying it over time, your retention will multiply.

It’s important to do this regularly. Build it into your daily routine, and take advantage of odd moments. Waiting for the bus/subway/train? Don’t scroll TikTok – study vocabulary words. Go over some definitions mentally while you brush your teeth. See how many flashcards you can get through while your chicken florentine is in the microwave.

Connect Words that are Synonyms or Antonyms

Another reinforcing practice is to connect words in your flashcard deck that are synonyms or antonyms. You don’t have to group them together for study, but if you’re reviewing a word and realize that it has a synonym or antonym relationship to another word in your deck, see if you can list any other synonyms or antonyms in your deck.

This way your individual “definition knowledge bits” can become mutually reinforcing. And as you know, the two correct answer choices on any sentence equivalence question are synonyms, or at least words that can function synonymously in the given context. You’ll be surprised how often sentence equivalence questions feature synonym pairs you identified in your study deck.

If you get into these vocabulary-building habits, you’ll find that they serve you long after you’ve trounced the GRE. A robust vocabulary makes you a more effective communicator, a clearer thinker, and an all-around cooler person – as long as you don’t flaunt it too much.

To supplement your vocabulary-building efforts, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the structure and content of the GRE verbal reasoning section. The section includes two types of questions: reading comprehension, sentence equivalence, and text completion. Understanding the different question types and their respective formats can help you approach each question with confidence and efficiency.

If you are interested in speaking with one of our GRE tutors, you can sign-up for a complimentary, 30-minute, consultation callYou can also learn more from our past clients who were able to achieve their cumulative 325+ score with us!

Contributor: Elijah Mize (Apex GRE Instructor)

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GRE: Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence
Posted on
Feb 2023

GRE: Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence

Vocabulary-based questions on the GRE verbal reasoning section are of two kinds: text completion and sentence equivalence. Both types are about filling in blanks in sentences with the right words based on context, but the answer choice formats are different. In this article, we’ll observe the similarities and differences between the two types of vocabulary questions and provide you with guidelines for working out each type.

Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence: Similarities and Differences

GRE Text completion (TC)

Text completion (TC) questions can have one, two, or three blanks, with each blank being filled by one correct word. Single-blank TC questions have five words to choose from. Double-blank and triple-blank TC questions have three choices for each blank. Here are some examples, with correct answers to follow:

GRE Text Completion Problem

In the midst of so many evasive comments, this forthright statement, whatever its intrinsic merit, plainly stands out as                      .

(A)  paradigm

(B) a misnomer

(C) a profundity

(D) an inaccuracy

(E) an anomaly

The correct answer is E, an anomaly. The “forthright statement” is anomalous among “so many evasive comments.”

GRE Text Completion Problem

The activists’ energetic work in the service of both women’s suffrage and the temperance movement in the late nineteenth century (i)                    the assertion that the two movements were (ii)                     .

Blank (i)                                                    Blank (ii)

(A) undermines                                    (D) diffuse

(B) supports                                           (E) inimical

(C) underscores                                   (F) predominant

The correct answers are A, undermines, and E, inimical. Inimical is a less common word meaning “at odds” or “opposed.” It has the same root as the word “enemy.” Even if you don’t know this word, you must choose it because the other blank (ii) choices D, diffuse, and F, predominant, can’t work.

GRE Text Completion Problem

Wills argues that certain malarial parasites are especially (i)                        because they have more recently entered humans than other species and therefore have had (ii)                       time to evolve toward (iii)                       . Yet there is no reliable evidence that the most harmful Plasmodium species has been in humans for a shorter time than less harmful species.

Blank (i)                                                    Blank (ii)                                                    Blank (iii)

(A) populous                                          (D) ample                                                 (G) virulence

(B) malignant                                        (E) insufficient                                     (H) benignity

(C) threatened                                     (F) adequate                                           (I) variability

The correct answers are B, malignant, E, insufficient, and H, benignity. This question is all about the relationship between the passage of time and the harmfulness of the malarial parasites. The second sentence of the prompt makes it clear that Wills expects the most recently-entered parasites to be the most harmful and the least recently-entered parasites to be the least harmful.

To put it in terms of the answer choices, the parasites, according to Wills, become less malignant and more benign as time goes by. Therefore, since we are talking about the parasites that have “more recently entered humans,” they have had insufficient time to evolve from malignancy to benignity, and the answer combination of B, E, and H makes sense

GRE Sentence Equivalence

These questions have only one blank, but you must choose two words that would appropriately and similarly fill in the blank from among a group of six. You’re looking for the two words that, when substituted for the blank, produce sentences of similar meaning (hence the name “sentence equivalence”). There may be more than one potential synonym pair among the six answer choices, but only one synonym pair will work contextually.

Here’s an example:

GRE Sentence Equivalence Problem

A misconception held by novice writers is that sentence structure mirrors thought: the more convoluted the structure, the more                        the ideas.

(A) complicated

(B) engaged

(C) essential

(D) fanciful

(E) inconsequential

(F) involved

This question is fairly straightforward; we are trying to match the meaning of the keyword “convoluted” in the sentence. The correct answers are A, complicated, and F, involved.

Notice that this is a less common meaning for the word “involved.” If you ignore the context and just try to find a synonym pair, you might land on B, engaged, and F, involved. Normally these words would have similar meanings. But “involved” has another meaning that works for the blank in this sentence, while “engaged” does not.

GRE Sentence Equivalence Problem

Here’s one more sentence equivalence problem for practice:

Newspapers report that the former executive has been trying to keep a low profile since his                        exit from the company.

(A) celebrated

(B) mysterious

(C) long-awaited

(D) fortuitous

(E) indecorous

(F) unseemly

Why is this former executive trying to keep a low profile? A case could be made for any of the answer choices, but there is only one real synonym pair: indecorous and unseemly (E and F). Even if you don’t know these words, you can arrive at the correct answer by noting the lack of a proper synonym pair in any of the more common words functioning as answer choices A through D.

For sentence equivalence questions, you have to maintain a flexible approach. Some questions will rely more on context clues, and others will rely more on recognizing synonym pairs.

If words like indecorous and unseemly are tripping you up on vocabulary-based questions, come back for our next article on how to efficiently learn GRE vocabulary words.

If you are interested in speaking with one of our GRE private tutors, you can sign-up for a complimentary, 30-minute free consultation call. You can also learn more from our past clients who were able to achieve their cumulative 325+ score with us!

Contributor: Elijah Mize (Apex GRE Instructor)

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How To GRE Verbal Like An Expert
Posted on
Nov 2021

How To GRE Verbal Like An Expert

If you are interested in attending graduate school, it may be mandatory to take the GRE. This standardized exam tests your capabilities as a student and lets prospective schools know how well you may function during your graduate studies. The GRE is split up into numerous sections: Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing. Often, test takers tend to spend the most time on the Quantitative Section, as proficient quant skills are more difficult to establish than verbal skills. However, it is important not to overlook the benefit of studying for the verbal section of the GRE exam. In order to Verbal Like an Expert, you need to fully understand the sections, question types, and layout of the GRE Verbal section. 

GRE Verbal Section

The Verbal section of the GRE has three questions types. These include:

    • Reading Comprehension
    • Text Completion 
    • Sentence Equivalence 

These three sections have been meticulously designed to measure your ability to analyze and break down written data while synthesizing the information garnered from the passages/sentences/paragraphs. The aspects of the GRE verbal sections are meant to imitate the types of verbal work often confronted in graduate-level work. Showing prospective graduate schools that you are proficient in the verbal portion of the GRE shows admissions committees that you can handle the difficult and strenuous nature of the graduate school workload. This includes thinking ‘outside the box’ while drawing conclusions and interpreting information from the given material. 

Reading Comprehension

During graduate school students are confronted with words and phrases not common in the English vocabulary. From reading scholarly works to writing academic essays many pages in length, being able to use archaic and uncommon words in the correct way is essential to doing well not only on the GRE but also in graduate school and the professional world. 

The structure of the reading comprehension section contains around 10 different passages varying in length and topic. Including passages ranging from a paragraph in length to numerous sections. The content of these written passages encompass topics ranging from biology to humanities. The verbal comprehension tests your ability to: 

    • Understand and interpret words, sentences, paragraphs, and passages
    • Summarize texts and differentiate their main points
    • Drawing conclusions, reasoning, and inferring missing information
    • Analyze the assumptions and perspectives from authors 
    • Interpret strengths and weaknesses of an argument 
    • Consider various explanation 

These skills are tested through a number of questions based on the passages. The majority of these questions are multiple-choice questions. At times the questions are asked in a format where you are required to select multiple correct answers out of a list of potential answers or where you have to select a particular sentence from a given passage. 

Text Completion

As the title suggests, in the text completion section test takers are asked to complete a portion of a sentence or passage with the correct word. This assesses your ability to create a coherent sentence using uncommon words or phrases. The question structure of this section uses a passage template of one to five sentences each composed of one to three blanks. Per each blank, test takers have five different answer choices to choose from. 

When answering text completion sentences remember that credit is given per each blank. These blanks are scored independently of each other meaning an answer given in the first section of the passage does not affect the answer of the last portion. Tips for completing the text completion section include:

    • Answer the blanks as a complete set as opposed to answering each blank individually 
    • Make sure to pay attention to the grammar and style of the passage when deciding on your selection. 

Sentence Equivalence

On the sentence equivalency section test takers should be able to properly draw conclusions from given information. The structure of the section includes a sentence with a single blank and six potential answers where you need to select two proper answers. Test takers need to be able to discern the correct choice so that they formulate a sentence that is coherent and complete. When completing a sentence equivalence question be sure to read the sentence all the way through. Fill in the blank with a word that you believe fits best, basing the second answer off of the first answer choice you have chosen. Often, the GRE has question pairs as part of the potential answer in an effort to throw the test taker off. Once you have selected the potential answers, be sure to read through the sentence one last time to be sure the words fit properly. 

To Conclude

Excelling on the verbal reasoning portion of the GRE may appear as less of a challenge than the Quant portion of the exam. However, it is vital to do your due diligence when studying for the GRE. The Verbal Section is important for all future graduate students. Applicants must be able to show admissions committees that they can interpret the works of scholars and draw unique conclusions. This is especially true for anyone hoping to enter into the social science and humanity fields. We offer help with future GRE test takers at any point of their studying timeline. To learn more about how we can help you excel on the GRE and obtain admission to a top graduate program, visit us at our website.


Contributor: Dana Coggio

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